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How to Change a Tire (Step-by-Step)

After discovering my sensitivity to milk products, I began to notice that milk was in practically everything. This is my survival guide.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Changing a Tire

Getting a flat tire is not only inconvenient, but it can be costly, too. We already know it can cost upwards of a hundred or so dollars to replace a tire, so why not save money on the tow truck, too? Print this article and keep it in your car for an easy-to-follow guide on changing a tire.

Required tools for changing a tire

Required tools for changing a tire

You Will Need:

  1. Spare Tire
  2. Jack
  3. Lug Wrench
  4. Hub Cap Removal Tool or Screwdriver (5)

Tip: Most cars come with a jack and lug wrench along with a spare tire. Be sure to make sure you have these items!

Step 1: Prepare

Make sure you are completely pulled off to the side of the road. (It is okay to drive slowly for a short distance on a flat.)

  1. Turn on your hazard lights.
  2. Turn off the engine.
  3. Set your parking brakes.
  4. If parked on a hill, wedge your tires onto the curb by turning your steering wheel all the way clockwise (if facing downhill) or counterclockwise (if facing uphill). You can also wedge a large rock or piece of wood behind the wheels.

Tip: The parking brakes are either located on the center console as hand levers or to the left side of the pedals as foot brakes.

Remove hub cap

Remove hub cap

Step 2: Remove the Hub Cap

  1. Insert a flathead screwdriver into the space where the cover meets the tire.
  2. Apply slight leverage.
  3. Repeat this around the circumference of the hub cap until it comes loose.

Tip: If you don’t have the correct tools, a hub cap will come off just as easily with a key.

Loosen the lug nuts

Loosen the lug nuts

Step 3: Loosen Lug Nuts

  1. Place the lug wrench over the head of a lug nut.
  2. Rotate the lug wrench counterclockwise.
  3. Loosen the nut until it spins freely, but do not remove it.
  4. Repeat steps 1, 2, and 3 for the remaining lug nuts.

Tip: It is important not to remove the lug nuts prior to jacking the car because of the risk of injury and risk of damage to the vehicle.

Place the jack on the underside of the car, near the tire

Place the jack on the underside of the car, near the tire

Step 4: Jack Up Your Car

  1. Locate the frame of the car.
  2. Place the jack as designated by the owner's manual, or as indicated under the axle.
  3. Manually adjust the height of the jack to between the car frame and the ground. Make sure the point of leverage is facing outwards.
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Tip: Many new vehicles have a mark on the frame where the jack should go. Older vehicles may have impressions left from prior jackings. Refer to your manual.

Raise the jack by inserting the leverage arm and turning clockwise

Raise the jack by inserting the leverage arm and turning clockwise

Step 5: Raise the Jack

  1. Insert the leverage arm of the lug wrench into the point of leverage on the jack by sliding it through the corresponding holes.
  2. Grab onto the head of the lug wrench, and begin turning clockwise.
  3. The jack will begin to raise. Raise until the wheel spins freely.

Tip: Raise only until the wheel can turn freely, and not any higher. You should not be able to see under the tire. This reduces the risk of injury and damage should the jack fail.

Remove the lug nuts

Remove the lug nuts

Step 6: Remove the Lug Nuts

  1. Completely loosen and remove all lug nuts. This can be done with the lug wrench or by hand.
  2. Place the lug nuts in a secure location, such as your pocket or in a cup holder.
  3. Carefully remove the tire by slowly sliding it straight off. Place it flat on the ground.

Tip: Lug nuts are easy to lose. Spare lug nuts can be purchased at any tire or automotive store. As a precaution, I suggest carrying spares in your glove box, just in case.

Spare tire, with hand-tightened lug nuts

Spare tire, with hand-tightened lug nuts

Step 7: Install the Spare Tire

  1. Make sure the spare tire is oriented correctly, and line it up with the lug bolts on the car, same as the previous tire.
  2. Place the tire onto the car.
  3. Hand-tighten lug nuts back onto lug bolts by turning them clockwise. Tighten them only until they are stiff.

Tip: It is important not to tighten the lug nuts all the way until the tire is on the ground. This is because when the tire is suspended, it is not experiencing its usual forces as when it is sandwiched between the automobile and the road. Tightening them before lowering the car may cause imbalance.

After lowering the jack, tighten the lug nuts

After lowering the jack, tighten the lug nuts

Step 8: Lower the Car and Tighten the Lug Nuts

  1. Begin lowering the jack by inserting the lug wrench into the jack (see Step 5), this time turning counterclockwise.
  2. Once the vehicle is completely lowered, use the lug wrench to completely tighten the lug nuts by cranking it clockwise.
  3. Place the hub cap over the tire. It should snap right on. Refer to your manual, if needed.

Tip: Remembering which way to turn a nut can be frustrating and annoying, especially during car troubles. I use the phrase “Lefty-Loosy, Righty-Tighty” to help me remember.

Step 9: Clean up, and Go!

  1. Place replaced tire into the trunk, where the spare tire is kept.
  2. Pick up all tools and put them away. Make sure the trunk is secure.
  3. Check tire pressure, check that lug nuts are secure, and visually check all tires to make sure they look good.
  4. Double-check around and under the car for your tools and belongings. A tool on the road could cause someone else a flat!

Tip: Sometimes spare tires can be low on air themselves. I recommend having an air pump at hand. If not, be sure to check the pressure first; typical tire pressure for cars and trucks is between 30 PSI and 40 PSI. If the tire is very low, drive slowly and carefully to the nearest gas station and fill it up.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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